Kelly Believes in His Teams' Great Depth

Oregon's Chip Kelly met with media today in his first weekly conference for the 2010 season. The Ducks are preparing for the University of New Mexico this Saturday with a 12:30 (Pacific) kickoff time at Autzen Stadium. Kelly believes his team has great depth that will allow Oregon to play the fast tempo Kelly established since his arrival on the Eugene campus.

During the off-season the Ducks were plagued by legal woes that cost former star Jeremiah Masoli a spot on the roster and causing running back LaMichael James to sit out the opening contest.

Last Friday, Kelly announced the sophomore Darron Thomas would be the starter for the New Mexico game. Kelly indicated that Thomas had a very solid fall camp

"Not pressing," described Kelly of Thomas' play. "(He) takes what comes to him."

Kelly also pointed out that Thomas has become aware of the other playmakers on the offensive squad and that it "doesn't have to be him," when it comes to making plays.

Masoli of course has transferred to Mississippi, but the contest for the starting position between Thomas and senior Nate Costa was intense and had sideline observers guessing who might end up the lead signal caller right up to the time of Kelly's announcement.

Sophomore running back Kenjon Barner will start on Saturday against the Lobos. Barner saw significant duty last season as James' back up, but according the Kelly the differences between the "ones and twos" or the first and second string, is very close and the coach pointed out the combination of James and Barner as being a prime example of that. In fact, Kelly has some pretty high praise for Barner.

"One of the top players in the country," Kelly said of Barner. "A dynamic player."

Barner is probably best remembered for a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown last year against UCLA and even if he will be the prime running back this week against New Mexico, he will still shoulder the lion's share of kick return duty this week also.

While James is on the sidelines watching the game, Barner's back-up is still somewhat of a mystery in that senior Remene Alston has been battling injuries. Depending on Alston's health at game time will determine if converted quarterback Daryle Hawkins or walk-on Andres Reed will supplement Barner against the Lobos. Another possibility Kelly has is using true freshmen Dontae Williams or Lache Seastrunk. Kelly indicated that the coaching staff has not yet made a determination whether to play the pair. The headman is somewhat reluctant to use the freshmen because next week James is available and the amount of playing time either Williams or Seastrunk would see for the rest of the season may not be enough to sacrifice the red shirt year of eligibility.

Kelly mentioned that Hawkins can play running back or receiver and that he possesses great knowledge of the Oregon playbook, making him a very valuable asset. Kelly did not expand his thoughts about how much Hawkins would play but indicated that it would depends on "injuries where Dayrle (Hawkins) fits" in.

On the defensive side of the ball, Kelly is very pleased with the progress the Duck defenders made in fall camp. Depth is also very apparent and the coach also pointed out how close the starters and backups are in terms of talent and ability, using junior linebacker Josh Kaddu and his backup redshirt freshmen Boseko Lokombo as another set of prime examples as he did with James and Barner on the offense. Kelly believes he has enough depth that Nick Aliotti will be able to run fresh players in and out all day long. This something the Ducks have longed dreamed of doing and perhaps this season is when that dream will come true.

Saturday's game starts at 12:30 p.m. and will be carried live in Oregon and Washington on Comcast Sports Net.

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